After being forced to pull out of the US Open - his second major in under a year, the world's number six tennis player and longest time holder of the #1 spot (373 weeks), Serbia's Novak Djokovic, 35, announced his plans to participate in the Watergen Open taking place from September 26 to October 2 in the Ramat Hasharon neighborhood of Tel Aviv.
Having missed the Australian Open at the beginning of the year due to his unwillingness to get the COVID-19 vaccine, Djokovic has continued his insistence to refuse the shot even if it prevents him from playing in major tournaments.
According to US policy, foreign nationals are not allowed to enter the country without the COVID-19 despite the US Tennis Association saying it would enforce local vaccine regulations, allowing unvaccinated American players to compete, and spectators not required to wear protective masks.
“Novak is a great champion and it is very unfortunate that he will be unable to compete at the 2022 US Open, as he is unable to enter the country due to the federal government’s vaccination policy for non-US citizens,” said Stacey Allaster, the US Open tournament director, adding: “We look forward to welcoming Novak back at the 2023 US Open.”
The last time Djokovic competed in Israel was a Davis Cup match played in 2006.
"I played here with Serbia in the Davis cup, but we didn't have time to travel. This time I did some traveling in my three days here, you have an incredible country," said Djokovic following his previous visit to Israel.
"I got to know it a little bit now and discovered there is plenty more to see. I was in Jerusalem in all the holy places. It was an amazing experience. As a religious man, a Christian, I feel obligated to come here at least one more time to see and experience the fantastic holy land...," related the tennis star.
Djokovic has spent more weeks at No. 1 than anyone else in the history of the ATP rankings and currently holds 21 grand slam titles - just one behind Spanish rival Rafael Nadal, after taking home the Wimbledon title in June and falling to Nadal in the finals of the French Open.
Austria's Dominic Thiem, as well as 16th ranked Jewish-Argentine Diego Schwartzman and 17th ranked Marin Cilic of Croatia have also confirmed plans to participate in the event.
The arrival of these stars comes during an already exciting September for tennis in Israel and the Watergen Open will take place two weeks after Israel hosts the Davis Cup tied versus the Czech Republic on September 16-17.
The Tel Aviv tournament returns to Israel after a 26-year hiatus thanks to the cancellation of the Zhuhai Championships ATP 250 event in China due to the latest outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.